The Illinois State Board of Education encourages families to establish and maintain good health and study habits as schools across the state open doors for the start of a new academic year. The onset of the school year provides a prime opportunity to review academic skills and implement positive habits and routines.
"Students need to arrive at school ready for new challenges and experiences," said State Board of Education Chairman Gery J. Chico. "Families can help their children excel by developing habits that ensure children get enough sleep, a good breakfast and a dedicated study time and place. Most importantly, they can pass on a positive attitude about education. Learning doesn't just happen during the school day but every moment adults spend with children."
As students approach the new school year, families might start new bedtime hours for an easier transition during the first week of school. Setting aside a quiet dedicated study space, with good light and appropriate supplies, helps children focus as they do homework.
A review of academic skills before the start of the school year may also help students succeed in the classroom. Some ideas include:
• Dictate a grocery or task list to a child for writing practice.
• Read both fiction and nonfiction to your children.
• Ask a child to write about summer vacation for a family scrapbook.
• Review multiplication and division skills.
• Talk about current events, the causes and possible connections to the school and local community.
• Ask students to write three goals for the school year and then discuss steps that might help them realize their goals. Review goals every couple weeks.
• Talk to children about their fears or concerns regarding the return to school.
• If a child is transitioning to a new school or a new district, arrange a visit to the building so they can get more familiar with their surroundings and maybe meet faculty, staff or even other classmates in advance.
• Check homework nightly and find ways to expand on topics through trips to local museums, libraries, parks and zoos.
Illinois 2012 Teacher of the Year Josh Stumpenhorst, a sixth-grade language arts and social science teacher at Naperville's Lincoln Junior High School agrees that learning and school success is a team effort.
"Parental involvement plays a huge role in how children approach school, work with their peers and embrace challenges," he said. "An enriching school experience not only teaches children critical academic skills but prepares them for a successful and happy life."
This year, families might also talk to their local school district officials and educators about implementation of the Common Core Standards in English Language Arts and Math. These state learning standards, approved in 2010, provide benchmarks for academic progress that students should have achieved at the end of each grade level. Teachers and principals design curriculum and best practices at the local level to meet the standards. A new state assessment, aligned to these standards, will debut in 2014-15. To learn more, visit the ISBE Web page on the Common Core at www.isbe.net/common_core/default.htm.
Also, new Illinois Department of Public Health rules require students entering sixth and ninth grades this school year to show proof they got the Tdap vaccine, a booster shot for continued protection against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough).